Burnout: When to Ask for Time Off

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September 10, 2015

In today’s fast-paced society, we are often running on all cylinders without getting enough sleep, eating well or taking adequate breaks. Instead, we push ourselves to our limits (or past them!) and ignore signs that something is wrong.

It feels like the cost of living has never been higher and many of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Even if things aren’t going well at work, we shy away from saying anything for fear of losing our jobs. The problem is that, in the process, we run ourselves into the ground and that doesn’t help anyone. In fact, it does the opposite. We stop being able to perform at an optimal level and genuinely put ourselves at risk of being fired.

Every workplace has different policies but, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to look into how you could take some time away from your duties to heal and recover. Not sure if you are suffering from burnout? Here are some signs:

Chronic Fatigue

Are you tired all the time?  It may have started as just a lack of energy on most days but can quickly progress to feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. When you get to this point, it’s not uncommon to feel a sense of dread at the idea of having to go out and face the day. You may also notice a lack of focus and forgetfulness.

Decreased Appetite

At first, you might notice that you get to the end of the day and you’ve barely had anything to eat. You might even argue that you’ve been so busy that you “forgot” about lunch. This can happen here and there but when it becomes a pattern, it’s cause for concern, especially if you start losing weight.

Sleep Disturbances

Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time and, usually, the situation resolves itself but if you struggle to get to sleep (or stay asleep) for a couple of nights a week, you should take notice. If it’s so bad that it’s become a nightly problem, you definitely need to address the situation. Your body can only run on empty for so long.

Anxiety and/or Depression

It’s incredible how subtly the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression can creep in. What begins as mild tension, worry, edginess, sadness or occasional hopelessness can evolve into something much worse. If you become so anxious that it affects your ability to work or causes problems in your personal life or if you begin to feel trapped, worthless, severely depressed or suicidal, you should seek professional help immediately.

Health Changes

Burnout is a serious issue and can actually manifest into physical problems. Without proper physical and/or emotional rest and nourishment, your immune system can become weak and you may come down with the cold or flu more often than you have in the past. You may also experience physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations, upset stomach, shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches.

Common Causes of Burnout

Everyone can feel frustrated at work but there are some things that can definitely contribute to burnout in the workplace. Here are some examples:

  • Unclear Job Expectations -Are you unsure what you are supposed to be doing or what is expected of you?
  • Unhealthy Dynamics – Do you have to deal with a toxic coworker, bully or a micromanaging boss every day? That’ll do it.
  • Wrong Job – Do you feel like your current role has nothing to do with your actual skills and interests? Do you feel ill-prepared to do your work? That’s a good reason to feel stressed!
  • Work-Life Imbalance – If you feel like your job is constantly interfering with your personal life, you may grow to resent it. Whether the boss has unreasonable demands or you are simply left too exhausted to spend time with your friends and family, this imbalance can definitely take its toll. 

It’s better to address any issues sooner than later to avoid things getting out of control. If you can identify with any of the signs and symptoms of burnout, it may be worth sitting down with an HR representative at your workplace to find out your options.

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